Business Owner Issues Apology at Wheeling City Council Meeting
WHEELING — Businessman Michael Duplaga III publicly apologized at Tuesday’s Wheeling City Council meeting for racially offensive comments he posted last week on social media.
A contingent led by West Virginia NAACP President Owens Brown, Ohio County president NAACP Darryl Clausell and several others turned out for the council meeting. They spoke before council about Duplaga, the importance of word choice and how they can affect society through social media.
Duplaga is the owner of Generations Pub in Wheeling. He used racial slurs while stating in his post he didn’t care if President Trump called various ethnic groups offensive names if he took the country “in the right direction.”
“It is with humility that I apologize for offending people and using the phrase ‘I don’t care,'” he said. “While attempting to make a point on social media, those words led to people thinking that I support and approve an agenda of hate and discrimination.
“It is with complete honesty that I also apologize for use of four racial slurs — one in particular,” he said.
Duplaga said he was “not a man of color,” and “would never know the pain, suffering and oppression that word stands for.”
“My ignorance can never be used as an excuse for that,” he said. “I’ve let down my family, friends, community, employees and certainly my friends of color. I will work to prove this is completely out of character. I refuse to let 10 seconds on a keyboard define who I really am.”
After Duplaga’s posting began to spread Thursday night, Mayor Glenn Elliott said he reached out to Duplaga on Friday and encouraged him to meet Sunday night with NAACP representatives. The meeting took place at Generations Pub.
“It was a very tough, and very frank conservation that I thought at times was very helpful,” said Elliott.
Brown addressed council, and termed Duplaga’s posting “highly irresponsible.”
“Mr. Duplaga is a pillar of the community, an intelligent man from what I gleaned when I met him,” he said. “Because of his status, he has a greater responsibility to this community. He should have known better. His words carry a lot of weight in this community.”
Clausell said Duplaga’s posting shared on the local NAACP Facebook page has had more than 5,000 shares. He said the words posted not only affect Duplaga, but the entire community.
Clausell encouraged Duplaga to seek to repair relationships with those he has offended.
Prior to the regular meeting of council, council’s development committee met. Near the end of the committee meeting, council met in executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss the potential acquisition of property.
The regular council meeting started about 10 minutes later than the scheduled 5:30 p.m. time.